Welcome to part three of an eight-part series on teamlancing, where our heroine (that would be me) shares her insights, tips, and advice for better teamlancing. But first, a flashback…
Back when I was at my first corporate job, I used to be mightily insulted when my manager and big boss endlessly praised my efficiency. It felt like such a boring way to describe me when more than anything I wanted to be known for my brilliance or creativity or out-of-the-box thinking. While those descriptors came later, I ultimately realized that while it’s always nice to be known for being the rock star on the team, it isn’t always the ideal.
Being efficient and being able to manage everything on your plate means you don’t only get things done, your boss or co-workers don’t always have to double-check your work. And that makes you a prized member of any team since people continue to want to work with you when you’re able to do your job well.
Do your job well (so your colleagues can do their jobs well)
On my journey from cubicle to office to home office, I further learned to hone my skills and to really prize my overall professional proficiency. And yeah, I became really proud of being efficient. It meant that I got things done as needed when needed. In the corporate world or in the teamlancing arena people who do their jobs well allow their co-workers to do their jobs well. If you’re better at what you do, you help everyone on your team excel too.
But the workflow in an office differs from that of a freelancer. For that reason and about a thousand others, I had to learn to balance creativity with a strong work ethic to find the balance necessary to run a successful freelancing business.
One of the major issues with being a solopreneur is having to figure out nearly everything for yourself. While professional organizations or even dedicated Facebook groups can help you with the big-ticket items and offer input regularly, it isn’t the same as that teamlancer connection.
Meet the teamlancing dynamic
Things were shaken up considerably for me when I joined a team a few months back. As part of a group of teamlancing professionals, I now have colleagues to bounce ideas off of as well as to ask for counsel when things seem iffy. And I really like it. Contrasting that (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), there’s a certain newer feeling of aloneness when I shift back into my freelancing work.
Which leads us to the importance of managing your workflow.
After years of freelancing, I was good at managing the usual ebb and flow and for the most part, could plan accordingly. With teamlancing came a new set of additional rhythms and concurrent workflows I now have to accommodate in my week. I asked some longtime and newbie teamlancers to share their expertise managing the unique workflow that comes with teamlancing.
3 things to keep in mind about the freelancing vs. teamlancing workflow
- Me vs. we: In freelancing, you’re answerable to a client, editor or supervisor; in teamlancing, you might just be answerable to an entire team. But don’t worry. In teamlancing, you can also crowdsource from a known and trusted group of fellow teamlancers, which makes you more efficient overall.
- Deadlines meet teamwork: In the freelancing world, you might find your greatest nemesis is often the fearsome and intransigent deadline. In teamlancing, you usually try to balance your workflow with that of your immediate and larger team.
- The great void: Once you start teamlancing, you might find giant holes in your freelancing style. You might just have to shift the way you work.
4 tips for managing your teamlancing workflow
Jason Myers, who manages two careers as both a bassist for a heavy metal band and Senior Account Executive (and fellow teamlancer) for The Content Factory (TCF), shared some intel on how to keep the flow in workflow.
1. Set up a virtual office environment
“If you’re not already, get set up on a virtual office platform such as Slack which will allow you to stay in constant and immediate contact with your entire team throughout the workday,” advises Myers.
In addition to simulating an office environment in the sense of having separate channels (think conference rooms) for each client and team, “Slack allows you to instant message with your colleagues in a professional way and in a space where the conversations remain easily searchable.”
For Myers, it’s also like email “without the never-ending threads and pages of spam.” He also believes “Slack’s video and audio call functions also rival or exceeds the stability of platforms like Skype while being simpler to use than Zoom, at least for smaller internal meetings.”
The jury’s still out on that last part since I have a hard time getting my audio to consistently work on calls. Another perk of teamlancing is that I can ask the resident team tech expert to rescue me from soundless calls instead of scrambling to figure it out myself.
2. Track your time
Do you ever feel like you’re struggling to keep track of where your day went? “Even if it’s not mandated by your boss, I strongly recommend using an online time clock app like Toggl to keep track of every task you do throughout the day,” Myers advised.
“This will serve multiple purposes. It keeps you honest and is an effective way to see how much time you actually spend on each task. It also keeps you it keeps you from going down rabbit holes like social media feeds or that latest listicle blog post that isn’t really relevant to your current task list.”
3. Recap it
Similar to how Toggl can keep your to-do list organized, Myers suggests providing “a weekly recap report to your supervisor or team before the end of day on your last workday each week.”
But don’t panic that it has to come equipped with loads of bells and whistles. “This can be something as simple as a shared Google Doc with a bullet list of all of the tasks you accomplished throughout the week.” Myers explained that on his team “We like to call out wins and challenges in this recap so that we can feel positive about the things we accomplish while still examining areas that were difficult or require improvement next week.”
- Set up a virtual office and you’ll immediately feel like you’re part of a team, no matter where you physically are.
- Track your time so you understand what the timesucks are in your workday and which tasks only seem complicated.
- Recap for yourself, your boss, or your team. It will help you feel more accomplished and will also allow you to track your growth, success, or challenges weekly.
4. Use the right tools
“Our agency has been remote since it was founded ten years ago,” Myers said, “so we’ve experimented with many team workflow apps and processes over the years. The one thing that’s been a steady for TCF is the Google Workspace: Drive, Docs, Gmail, Sheets, Calendar… all of those tools are free, effective, and allow us to work on the same projects simultaneously in real-time.”
There’s also the added bonus of “allowing us to create client-facing docs and spreadsheets so those teams can access the PR outreach data and results that our team enters on a daily basis.”
3 teamlancing tips from a multi-tasking teamlancer
Since teamlancing is also about interconnected teams, Myers took a meta approach and asked Kelly Chase, director of content marketing at home decor brand Fracture, for her input as well.
1. Opt for face time
Chase thinks that teamlancers should use video conferencing for meetings whenever possible:
“When your team is remote, being able to actually get face time with each other is more important than ever. So much of communication is nonverbal. To ensure that everyone is on the same page, it helps to actually be able to see each other.”
She takes it one step further by reminding us that… “Nonverbal cues can also keep a meeting run more efficiently. Most of us have had the experience of being on cringe-worthy conference calls punctuated by awkward silences, people talking over each other, and teammates randomly announcing each other as they arrive late or have to leave early. Video conferencing doesn’t entirely eliminate these issues, but it can help keep the flow of conversation more natural.”
2. Focus on output
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that “Remote work is the great equalizer.” Chase said, “When your team is working from home, there isn’t anything to judge their performance on besides the work itself — and you might be surprised at how this changes your perspective.”
To that end, you should:
“Check in with your team every day, either individually or in a team standup, and have everyone briefly explain what they accomplished yesterday and what they plan to accomplish today. This will help you stay on top of tasks and identify any problem areas.”
Bear in mind that this level of check-in probably works best with full-time teamlancers since it might seem too demanding for those only working a few hours weekly.
3. It’s not the same for everyone
For long time freelancers and teamlancers, the all-remote work environment is another extension of what we’re already used to. But as Chase reminds us, it’s important to “remember that not everyone is well-suited to remote work.”
So if you’re seeing performance issues, Chase said that “it can help to approach it from the standpoint of helping your colleagues address these challenges and find solutions.”
That came when working remotely became the only way his team worked together. “As time goes on it feels weirder and weirder as we go. It can feel more detached.” And for Walters, that sometimes means that “things that are stressors are harder to resolve.”
Walters holds two jobs simultaneously within the same corporation and is “managing people as well as managing accounts.” Walters decided to create his own tools to manage his responsibilities and separate but related workflows. “I decided to build my own dashboard in Google sheets,” he said. And he’s refined his process over the past few years to include everything from client interactions to pending payments.
“I tried to keep everything in my mind or on scraps of paper. I settled on creating a dashboard. It gave me a place to keep all my thoughts,” more than that, “It gave me a place to walk away from. It gave me the ability to not think about work when I’m not at work.”
At the end of the day, that might be the most important workflow lesson there is: to define an end of the day and stick with it.
2 final tips on creating teamlancing boundaries:
- If you use Slack, set an away time daily and on weekends so you’re not endlessly pinged.
- Allow yourself to fully commit to both your workflow and your time off.